When Choosing Plants, Go Native

September 3, 2020

What do popular landscaping plants like Japanese maple, forsythia bushes, and English ivy have in common? They’re pretty–and none of them are native to North America.

While filling your yard with non-native plants might not sound like a big deal at first, it’s a choice that can have a significant ripple effect on your greater ecosystem. Non-native plants can steal precious water and nutrients away from other native species, attract unwanted pests, and dominate your landscaping chores. Even worse, these plants can start growing too well, becoming invasive and killing off old, native plant life.

While non-native species can be mindfully incorporated into your landscape, prioritizing indigenous plants is important for so many reasons.

Make Your Landscape More Ecologically Vibrant

When your backyard is full of indigenous plants, you can rest assured that those plants are perfectly adapted to the local seasons, moisture levels, and temperature shifts. Because of this, they tend to require much less intensive care, fertilizer, and maintenance than non-native plants. Everything is in synergy and functioning as it should be. Natives also attract significantly more wildlife than non-native plants, from grubs to birds. A native oak tree can house 20 times the caterpillars than non-native trees. That means more butterflies, more birds, more life! This goes to show how important native species are for promoting a healthier environment and greater biodiversity.

Support the Birds (and the Bees)

Bees and butterflies aren’t the only ones struggling with habitat loss these days. Birds have lost valuable food sources and habitats due to invasive and non-native species in landscaping. Over the centuries, native plants and local birds have evolved together, forming a mutually beneficial relationship. Many trees and shrubs provide shelter and precious habitat for our winged friends, while other plants are rich in nectar and seeds. Even the greater number of insects that are found on native flora are essential in order for birds to feed their chicks. But non-native plants may not offer birds the same benefits. For example, invasive non-native plants can create ‘food deserts’ for birds, leaving them with fewer safe habits and food sources. Without nourishing seeds, their favorite insects, and familiar nooks, bird species suffer–especially during the winter.

Figure out What to Plant

To sum it up, save yourself some work, show your ecosystem some support, and stop the spread of invasive species by opting for native plants. Plants become highly specialized and adapted to their environments, which is why it’s so important to choose plants that aren’t just native to North America, but are native to your specific region or ecosystem.

Curious as to what some of our favorites are? Think viburnums, crabapples, any ilex, hawthorns, dogwoods, and native conifers with cones. For an extensive list of native plants that birds especially love, check out Audubon’s Native Plant Database to find your best plants by zip code.

We always make sure to prioritize native plants here at Nature Works. We take into account climate, sunlight, soil quality and acidity, drainage, and your unique terrain to determine which plants will not only look beautiful, but will help your ecosystem thrive for years to come. Curious about what’s in your yard or looking to incorporate some new plant life? Contact us for a consultation anytime!

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